It had to be the waning moon

DCC mayoral candidates Barry Timmings (left) and Conrad Stedman at an OUSA mayoral forum this...
DCC mayoral candidates Barry Timmings (left) and Conrad Stedman at an OUSA mayoral forum this week. Photo: Peter McIntosh.
Voting papers have been out for a week, the candidates’ forum season is (thankfully) winding down, but things have become testy in the Dunedin local government elections.  David Loughrey, also in an unfavourable mood, looks back on a sometimes difficult week.

The week has been a trying one in local elections.

There have been some dark moments around the issue of disability, and things got personal on Thursday when tensions rose and candidates started having a go.

Candidate Barry Timmings and Cr Lee Vandervis squared off after the former accused the latter of telling a disabled candidate not to stand, with bitter recriminations hitting the front page of the Otago Daily Times.

Perhaps it was the effect of the waning moon, perhaps the difficult passions of spring, perhaps the particular weariness with life itself that grips the withered soul of any poor fool  who has been to more than two electoral forums in a row.

Who knows, but it seemed everyone struggled to contain themselves this week.

One example was the quite outrageous outbreak of ageism — ageism pure and simple — that exploded at the Otago University Students’ Association forum on Thursday.

Dunedin is generally an enlightened place.

The decent among us, and that is a huge proportion of the population, quite rightly look down on racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

That is in part because we have a history of liberal thinking, and because we live in a city where  enlightenment shines into almost every corner from our university — the University of Otago.

But when the chairman of the meeting at the university, OUSA vice-president Jarred Griffiths, asked candidates to describe Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull (66) in one word, the ageism quickly broke out.

Scout Barbour-Evans (21) got in early with the word "old".

It was a criticism based on a particular personal quality nobody on this earth can control, but perhaps it was an unfortunate one-off outburst that occurred because Mr Cull was not there to defend himself?

It was not.

Candidate Abe Gray (34), asked the same question, came up with "wrinkly".

Jim O’Malley (52) stepped up and dragged the tenor of the meeting back to polite with his description of "pleasant", before Cr Andrew Whiley (50) somewhat derisively described Mr Cull as a "manager", and Cr Lee Vandervis (61) went the whole hog and said he "has people suck up to him — he’s a sycophant magnet".

It must be the waning of the moon.

● It may be a little late in the piece, but this column is going to introduce a new feature anyway.It is called Phrase of the Week.

Phrase of the Week will be devoted to the most overused and annoying phrase that has popped up in the electoral process.

This week’s phrase is "punching above our weight".

We can’t remember who used it, we don’t really know what it means or why it is repeated ad nauseum, but we can tell you it annoys the living daylights out of us.

It is banned.

● It is also time to be openly critical of badly run candidate forums.

We appreciate these are mostly organised by those with good intentions and perhaps limited experience, but the need for tightly run meetings was very obvious this week.

At the Greater South Dunedin Community Group forum, run over two nights, at least one candidate who was in the audience on night one, but scheduled to speak on night two, was allowed to join in the debate and answer questions, before having a second go the next night.

On the second night, a candidate who spoke on the first night asked the worst sort of patsy question of a like-minded councillor from the audience, then gave a political statement without being shut down by the meeting chairman.

Strict rules are good in these situations.

● There were moments of quiet levity during the week that lightened the mood.

There was one candidate who described himself as "not an anti-climate change denier" at one forum.

We think that means he doesn’t deny arguments against climate change.It was, perhaps, not exactly what he meant.

● There are just two candidate forums  next  week we are aware of, both of which should delve into new areas of debate.

The Unions Otago mayoral candidates’ forum is on Monday at 7pm at the Dunedin North Intermediate hall, while the National Council of Women has a forum for women candidates at the Salvation Army Hall in Princes St at 7.15pm on Tuesday.


Blimey. One word. Only Scout and Abe came up with one, Lee needed ten. But, you know, just as we thought ageism was on its way out, hello! , 'old', 'wrinkly'. As a grandparent, I have, since the age of 37, fulminated against Ageism originating from the aged, who criticise the non Aged. Then this. It's no way to attract the geriatric vote.